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City at the Opera

07 of June '24

80 years after the start of the reconstruction of the capital after the destruction of World War II, the first opera about Warsaw will be seen on the stage of the Grand Theater National Opera. The staging, based on Grzegorz Piątek's award-winning book "The Best City in the World. Warsaw in Reconstruction 1944-1949" will have its premiere on September 19, 2025.


Published in 2020 by W.A.B. Publishers, the book about the rise of the city from the rubble is a story about the bold vision of rebuilding a modern metropolis and the people who faced this extremely difficult task.

"The best city in the world" is a book-monument, a unique monument to those who undertook the impossible. Finally, it is an attempt to take a new look at the city and a story that has been told many times, yet still remains unknown Błażej Ciarkowski wrote on A&B.

Grzegorz Piątek

Grzegorz Piątek, author of the book "The Best City in the World. Warsaw in reconstruction 1944-1949"

Photo: Jakub Celej © W.A.B. Publishing House.

How will this well-known but still not fully known story be told by the planned performance? The vision proposed by Benjamin Bukowski, author of the libretto, is thoroughly feminine the main character will, of course, be Warsaw, seen through the eyes of two women: the architect of the Capital Reconstruction Bureau, a character modeled on Helena Syrkus, and an American journalist, for whom the prototype is Anne Louise Strong, a reporter from the United States who reported on the retreat of the Nazis from occupied Poland and the beginnings of the reconstruction of the country drawn into the orbit of the Soviet Union.

Read more: Interview with Benjamin Bukowski about the emerging opera about the reconstruction of Warsaw

personal reference point

On June 5 this year we also learned the results of a closed competition, in which the project council selected the director of the show. She will be Barbara Wisniewska, a graduate and now a lecturer in directing at the Warsaw Theater Academy.

Modern Warsaw is a city that has covered a living, pulsating wound with a thin layer of rubble and new buildings — the director stressed in the competition project. — Underneath flows lava, oil processed from the bodies of the fallen and those lost in basements from which they never managed to escape, executed and forgotten. Every day we walk over corpses. [...] The harm and destruction were so great that their power still resonates in the residents after almost 80 years — she adds.

Barbara Wiśniewska, reżyserka

Barbara Wisniewska, director

Photo: Bartek Warzecha | Illustrations courtesy of Sinfonia Varsovia

As the Warsaw-based director points out, working on the staging of this opera has a special, personal dimension for her.

The emanation of this trauma is more powerful when one has lived here since birth, has lived in this city forever — emphasizes Wisniewska. — When your mother tells the story of her grandfather executed on Elektoralna Street in the first days of the war. When your grandmother tells how, as part of her work assignment, she designed electrical installations for the rebuilding of Mokotow. When you hear about your great-grandmother, who took care of the children of the Institute of the deaf-mute on Plac Trzech Krzyży and helped evacuate them from there during the uprising. And they were all from there. You live in the fumes of family stories and secrets, soaking them up from an early age. You carry in your genes these people, this city, this strength. Then Warsaw becomes a point of reference. It becomes deeply personal.

Cezary Duchnowski, composer and professor at the Karol Lipinski Academy of Music in Wroclaw, will take care of the musical setting of the performance. The music will be performed by Sinfonia Varsovia under the baton of Polish-Lebanese conductor Bassem Akiki. Natalia Kitamikado will be responsible for the set design, and Emil Wysocki for the costumes. Choreography will be prepared by Maćko Prosak, and make-up by Mateusz Stępniak. Marcin Cecko will be in charge of dramaturgy, Aleksandr Prowalinskiy will be in charge of lighting, and Bartek Macias will be in charge of projections.

elaboration: Ola Kloc

The vote has already been cast